KATHLEEN DONNELLY – Chasing Justice with a K-9

Award-winning author Kathleen Donnelly is a K-9 handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines—a private narcotics dog company. She enjoys using her K-9 experience to craft realism into her fictional stories. Along with working dogs, Kathleen loves horses. She owns two horses and a bossy yet adorable pony. Kathleen’s love of the mountains inspired her setting for Chasing Justice. She enjoys escaping to the high country to hike and photograph the scenery and wildlife. Kathleen has a B.A. in Journalism from Colorado State University and formerly wrote for The Berthoud Weekly Surveyor, where she won a Colorado Press Award. Kathleen lives in Colorado with her husband and all their four-legged friends.

Please tell us about your upcoming release: Chasing Justice

After losing her military K-9, Marine Maya Thompson swears she’ll never work with dogs again. But when she returns home to Colorado and accepts a job with US Forest Service law enforcement, fate brings K-9 Juniper into her life just as another tragedy unfolds.

Chasing Justice is a must-read for dog lovers and crime fiction lovers alike.” ~Margaret Mizushima, author of the award-winning Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, including Hanging Falls

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, George! I enjoyed answering questions about my path to publication and inspiration for Chasing Justice, my debut novel and the first in a series. Stay tuned to my social media channels and newsletter for more information about future books.

How long to get it published? I started writing Chasing Justice in 2016. However, the idea had been rattling around in my brain for a couple of years. I knew I wanted a female protagonist who would be a K-9 handler. Once I had the concept figured out, I started writing. In 2017, Chasing Justice (then titled Free Base) was a finalist for the Claymore awards, but I hadn’t completed the book yet. However, being a Claymore finalist gave me a confidence boost, and I finished the book over the next few months.

I then entered the book into the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Contest, where it took second place. I thought this would lead to immediate publication, but it received rejections when I sent the book out. I decided to send the manuscript to an editor who had just started freelancing. She’d previously worked at St. Martin’s Press, and the genres she specialized in included mystery and romance. Her edits showed me that while I had the possibility of a good book, I still had a lot to learn. I knew I had to start over except for the first three chapters.

I did just that and continued to study other books along with reverse engineering books that I liked. I started to understand what the editor was telling me. I went back to doing an outline, and I rewrote the entire book finishing it in the spring of 2020. I started querying my novel, and by July of 2020, I had a request to read the full manuscript from my agent Ella Marie Shupe who’s part of the Belcastro Agency. After reading the full manuscript, we talked on the phone, and soon after, Ella Marie offered me representation. We spent the fall of 2020 editing, and in January of 2021, Ella Marie started submitting to publishers. By spring, we had an offer from Carina Press, and I signed the contract a few months later. The rest, as they say, is history.

 We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I would love to say that my characters behave, but they just don’t! They seem to have a mind of their own. I do an outline, and we have long talks during that process where I tell my characters to speak now or forever hold their peace. Most of the time, they listen. I have one character in Chasing Justice (I won’t say who because that would be a spoiler.) that started out completely different in previous drafts. I wanted this character to be responsible for certain actions, but in the end, that character won out and got their way.

Maya, my main character, is quite strong-willed and stubborn. We have had many discussions, but what I love about her is how honest she is and how much she wants to do the right thing. She has been a fun character to work with.

Then there’s my fictional K-9, Juniper. While Juniper’s character developed from K-9s that I’ve worked, she can definitely change course and do her own thing—especially if it involves ripping up her dog bed. When you read Chasing Justice, you will see Juniper loves to get her way and keeps Maya on her toes.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Chasing Justice has a subplot that I left somewhat open for future stories. There are some small subplots within the novel as well. I used my outline to make sure the subplots made sense in the storyline and blended well with the entire arc of the novel. The freelance editor was very helpful in teaching me about weaving in subplots. The biggest lesson I learned was that you need to have a strong core of the story—one that can be put into a sentence. Once you have that core, you can develop subplots that go with that storyline. For example, Maya comes home to Colorado after being in the military but isn’t speaking to her grandfather. This plays into the main story, but the reason she and her grandfather aren’t speaking is a subplot.

My editor with Carina Press, Mackenzie Walton, also helped me figure out how to weave in and refine the subplots. Mackenzie’s edits on Chasing Justice were fantastic, and she did a great job of pushing me to become a better writer.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I love the “what if” game. I spend time brainstorming and mind mapping ideas. I was lucky enough to take some classes from best-selling author Grant Blackwood. He showed us how mind mapping can help tweak the stakes for your character.

I considered ideas such as how a drug-running militia living in the mountains might work. I asked, who are they? Why are they doing this? What type of drug should they be making and trafficking? For most of us, meth and marijuana are the first drugs that come to mind. I wanted something different. I started googling and mind mapping different ideas for drug production. (So far, neither the DEA nor FBI have shown up at my door, after all, my googling. Phew!) I found out about a drug called Krokodil. It’s not common here in the United States. Having an unusual drug upped the stakes for my characters and their investigation.

One thing I learned along the way is to not raise the stakes by adding another plotline. That may sound simple, but I think that happens a lot with new fiction writers. Keep the main plot, and then figure out how you can make things more difficult for your characters. Even with the dog work, I thought, okay, if I’m working a dog in the mountains, what makes things more difficult? Often, in real life, it’s the environment, so I raised the stakes by adding weather issues such as wind and dangers in the forest like trees with broken branches called widowmakers. The “what if” game is a ton of fun!

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional? I created a fictional National Forest for my book. It’s loosely based on the location of the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests. I did this because many Coloradoans know the national forests well, and I didn’t want to worry about whether or not there really was a lake near a trailhead. I also thought that by creating a fictional national forest and towns, I would have more fictional leeway for the story.

 Do you have any advice for new writers? If you love writing, just stick with it! Learn all you can. Attend conferences and be open to feedback. Conferences allow writers to receive critiques from best-selling authors and editors with extensive backgrounds. Take notes, ask questions, and learn everything you can from them. I have so many published authors to thank for their help as I worked towards publication. I met most of them at conferences. Writing a novel and getting it published is a lengthy process with a big learning curve. Most importantly, enjoy the journey.

How do our readers contact you?

Readers are welcome to reach out anytime via email at: kathleen@kathleendonnelly.com

Here are more ways to connect with me:

Website: www.kathleendonnelly.com

Newsletter Sign-up: https://kathleendonnelly.com/#newsletter

Social Media:

 

Facebook@AuthorKathleenDonnelly 

Twitter–@KatK9writer

Instagram–@authorkathleendonne lly

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22280955.Kathleen_Donnelly

Where to Purchase Chasing Justice: https://kathleendonnelly.com/chasing-justice/

 

 

19 Comments

  1. Rhonda

    Great interview, Kathleen! Looking forward to the great read!

    Reply
  2. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Kathleen, and LOVE your LOVE for animals. All the best!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Nice to meet you too, Madeline! I definitely do love all animals! They are just amazing! Thanks for reading my guest post and wishing you all the best! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Barbara Nickless

    Thanks for a terrific interview! Kathleen, I love reading about your journey. And–just a thought–maybe you could teach a class on how to reverse engineer a novel as part of the ongoing learning-to-write process. 🙂

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much for stopping by and reading the post, Barbara! That’s a great idea for a class…I’ll definitely think about it! I have to give credit to Grant Blackwood for teaching it in the class I took from him, but it would be fun to dig deeper and do a longer course on reverse engineering. Thank you! 🙂

      Reply
    • George Cramer

      Barbara, I second your suggestion that Kathleen teaches a class about reverse engineering a novel.

      Reply
      • Kathleen Donnelly

        Thanks, George! I’ll definitely consider it. Reverse engineering would be fun to teach. I know it really helped me out and I still plan on doing it as I write more books. 🙂

        Reply
  4. Lisa Towles

    What a wonderful interview. Kathleen’s background and book sound so intriguing, can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Lisa! I hope you enjoy Chasing Justice! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Peg Brantey

    This interview is fantastic! I love the questions, George. Kathleen, I appreciate your candor, and wish you every success. You deserve it!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Peg! I really appreciate all you’ve done to help me and all the encouragement along the way! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Margaret Mizushima

    Wonderful interview, Kathleen and George. I appreciate the hard work you’ve done to get this debut ready for the world, Kathleen. Loved reading about your journey!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thank you so much, Margaret! And thank you for your help along the way!

      Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Great interview, Kathleen. It sounds like you’ve worked really hard to perfect your writing and now you’re reaping the results. Congratulations on your success and best of luck with Chasing Justice.

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Michael! It’s been a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun along the way. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Donnell Ann Bell

    Terrific interview! Love that you added the weather as a potential antagonist. Colorado certainly perfect… beautiful one moment, two feet of snow the next, dry one second, fire season the next. Can’t wait to dig into Chasing Justice, Kathleen. Thanks, George!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Donnell! And thank you for all your support in this journey. I do love the mountains as an antagonist. I remember driving up Hwy 34 to Estes the year after the floods as this story was starting to develop in my mind. There was a combo of devastation and beauty. This juxtaposition really stuck with me and made me think about how the mountains can be their own character. Hope you enjoy Chasing Justice!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

SHELLEY RILEY – From the Kentucky Derby to Fantasy

Shelley Riley had a deep love for horses from an early age, and this love took her from humble beginnings at the Alameda County Fairgrounds to the storied barn area of Churchill Downs.

 

The story of Casual Lies began on a snowy January day in Lexington, Kentucky. While attending a thoroughbred sale, Shelley glanced up and made eye contact with a tiny, fuzzy eight-month-old foal that nobody else seemed to want. And the rest is the stuff of fairytales.

That nondescript colt went on to take Shelley and her husband Jim, an accomplished horseman in his own right, on an adventure of a lifetime. They went on to compete in all three Triple Crown Races—another first at the time. By finishing second in the 118th running of the Kentucky Derby in 1992, Casual Lies rewarded Shelley with the highest finish for a horse trained by a woman in the history of the Kentucky Derby. A record that still stands thirty years later.

In Casual Lies – A Triple Crown Adventure, Shelley gives the reader a fun look behind the scenes of what that adventure was like for her and Jim.

Why did you wait two decades to write your memoir about Casual Lies? It would have been far different if I had written the memoir right after the Triple Crown. I had a lot of material, mainly since I’d been writing a Daily Diary for both the Daily Racing Form as well as one for a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper. By waiting, the book became less a purge and more of a cathartic remembrance of a remarkable horse who electrified my world for far too short a time.

In 2012, I joined the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writer’s Club. My thought was to go from writing special feature articles for local newspapers and get an idea of how to finish a middle-grade novel that I’d started many years before. Instead, I was encouraged to write a memoir. It was the best advice I’d received since Charlie Whittingham had encouraged me to run Casual Lies in the Kentucky Derby.

Two things happened by sitting down and rereading the daily diaries I’d written. I reconnected with the things that made my horse special. I remembered all the fantastic things that we experienced because of Casual Lies. Truthfully, it’s still hard to believe it really happened.

Using the equity in our house, I’d bought a tiny colt that nobody else wanted. I shared how he grew into a headstrong, charismatic horse that took us on a journey you couldn’t have replicated if you had all the money in the world.

Fans from all over the world have read Casual Lies – A Triple Crown Adventure. You’ll laugh, you might cry a little, and trust me when I say I had no trouble poking fun at myself.

Although Casual Lies didn’t win the Kentucky Derby, he still holds a place in history. But for me, he was my bright-eyed and mischievous Stanley.

So how did you go from writing a memoir to penning Sword and Sorcery Fantasy novels? When I was a kid, I was an avid reader. But each book always had to have something to do with horses. As I grew older, my taste in literature became increasingly eclectic. Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Wilbur Smith, Larry McMurtry, Steven King, Dean Kootz, etc. the list would be endless. But my all-time favorite, as it turns out, is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, with Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove a close second.

A perfect book doesn’t come with enough pages. A good story involves a fellowship that you can feel a part of. For me, a good story is one where you find yourself invested in the fellowship’s success, you’re a part of the team, and when the story comes to an end, you’re loath to say goodbye to your new friends.

I love writing short stories. I find that a thought or an image often triggers my inspiration. The idea for Into Madness – The Born from Stone Saga came from pictures I took of gargoyles situated atop a gothic cathedral when I was touring Europe.

It was one of these shots that brought about Mystislav, a dragon made of stone, who comes to life under a full moon. He flies across the city and lands on the donjon tower of Carolingian castle. Mystislav hears the cries of a newborn babe and . . .

It wasn’t a short story, but it was a strong beginning for a YA Fantasy. As it turned out, the beginning was the easy part. Now I had to write a story. It took over four years.

Tell us about Into Madness, your first book in the Born From Stone series. The marketing blurb goes like this; After a decade in hiding, captured, and imprisoned, Ravin Carolingian is left to question everything she thought she knew about herself.
Still, as the line between ally and enemy blurs, one thing becomes clear. If Ravin’s going to help the Carolingian people, she must first escape the evil that walks the halls of the place she once called home.

As a reader, I like strong characters, adventure, and scenes that engage the reader’s senses. So that is how I chose to write this story. It never ceases to amaze me how the characters occasionally grab the bit and runoff—going in an entirely different direction than I had first imagined.

So what is the title of the second book, and when is the release date? The second book is Hearts Divided, and the third is The Reckoning. Hearts Divided is nearing completion. I have been receiving good-natured demands for the release date. Words in bold type like; NOW! and TOMORROW? have been hitting my inbox. Those types of demands tend to light a fire. Every writer knows that you don’t want to piss off the reader.

16 Comments

  1. Violet Moore

    Hello Shelley, I am pleased to see you featured on George’s blog. It’s one of my favorites for meeting new writers and refreshing friendships with others.

    I enjoyed reading Casual Lies but being an advanced reader for Into Madness was an adventure into a new world.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Hi Vi, It’s been a minute, for sure. We need to get together on the phone and compare notes. Your comments on Into Madness were invaluable and greatly appreciated.

      Reply
  2. Rhonda Lane

    Had to refresh my memory, so I watched a video of the ’92 Derby. Casual Lies almost had the Derby winner Lil E. Tee. So close.

    They both shot out in front of the rest of the pack, including the hotshot favorite Arazi.

    Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/5mBQxqtsyTc

    I can’t wait to read the book about it.

    Both Casual Lies and Into Madness are on my Kindle.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Rhonda. I must confess that whenever I watch the replay of the race, I still hold my breath. So close and yet . . .

      Still, first or second on the day, I was a winner for having the uncommon good fortune of having horses in my life and Casual Lies in particular.

      I’m thrilled that you’re going to read my books. I hope you enjoy them both.

      Reply
  3. Vinnie Hansen

    It was fun to read this and get to know you better, Shelley. You gave your horse a great name. Who knew that it would become a book title?

    You are the third person I know who has taken inspiration from gargoyles. The other two are Gigi Pandian and Kirsten Weiss, both of whom have gargoyle characters in one of their series.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Vinnie. As a prolific writer yourself, whose excellent work I’ve become familiar with, you understand how important a title can be to our finished story. A superb runner tends to make for a great name in horse racing. A few come to mind; Secretariat, California Chrome, and Seattle Slew, to name just a few. But all horses have to be named before they run their first race. I dedicated an entire chapter in the memoir to naming thoroughbreds, and I gathered a few fun stories about how some of the better-known horses came by their names. Also, thanks for the heads-up; I will check out Gigi and Kirsten’s books.

      Reply
  4. Marie Sutro

    Congrats on a wonderful story, and on making Derby history!

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Marie. I wish I could say that it was a dream come true, but in reality, I never even imagined that in over two decades of racing, I would one day saddle a horse in the Kentucky Derby, let alone all three legs of the Triple Crown. And then along came a horse that wouldn’t be denied. That was a miracle.

      Reply
  5. CINDY SAMPLE

    Your story is so fascinating, Shelley. I’ve just downloaded CASUAL LIES. I can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Cindy. I do hope you enjoy reading Stanley’s story. Around the barn, Casual Lies was called Stanley. I’ve often said I should have named the memoir The Horse With Two Names. I tried to give the reader a look at all the things you don’t get to see on the day of race telecasts. Which means I had no problem poking fun at myself.

      Reply
  6. Linda

    I am among those readers patiently waiting for the release of Hearts Divided.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Oh, Linda, how you pile on the guilt and bless you for it, for I need both the carrot and a liberal amount of the stick.

      Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Shelley, your personal life sounds like an adventure. It’s interesting how you gravitated to fantasy. Good luck with your writing and your horses.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you so much for your comment, Michael. Adventure is the perfect word to describe my life. I’ve often thought about how different it might have been if my father hadn’t bought me my first horse for $250. To go from riding a mixed breed mare near Moffatt Field in the 1960s to saddling a horse in the Kentucky Derby, even I find that hard to believe.

      Reply
  8. Donnell Ann Bell

    Fascinating interview, George and Shelley! That’s some serious love for horses to use the equity in your house. Thanks for introducing us to Shelley, George! Best wishes on Casual Lies!

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, Donnell. And yes, buying horses with borrowed money is not something I would do now. Still, at the time, and with many years ahead of us, it didn’t seem like such a risk. When we first started training horses, many years before Casual Lies came along, we would buy horses on what was called a run-out. By way of explanation, with a run-out, a set price is set for the horse in question, and then they were paid for through their future earnings. If there were no earnings, the breeder received nothing. We only did that one time, and we didn’t make any money, nor did the breeder. Usually, the horses you could buy on a run-out weren’t very well-bred. But it was a start, and we learned a lot from that experience. I treated every horse that came into my barn the same, no matter the pedigree. A good horse can come from anywhere. Look at this year’s Kentucky Derby winner. He was claimed for $30,000 and went on to win the Run for the Roses.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

SEELEY JAMES – Tough Background – Prolific Author

Seeley James is the author of the highly acclaimed Sabel Security Series featuring veteran Jacob Stearne and athlete Pia Sabel who must work together to bring the rich and powerful to justice. I’ve just released the twelfth book in the series, a moving psychological mystery, The Rembrandt Decision.

 

 

Let me tell you about, The Rembrandt Decision: Hours after a man discovers a secret destined to tear his family apart, Pia Sabel discovers his corpse in this psychological mystery reminiscent of both Agatha Christie and Taylor Jenkins Reid.

What brought you to writing? As soon as I finished Treasure Island on a rainy day in my childhood, I knew I wanted to be a writer. But my life turned unpredictable when I was kicked out of my family at fifteen. By seventeen, I was homeless. And at nineteen, I was adopted by a three-year-old girl (details at Adopted). I quickly learned kids require money, especially for a single father, which led me to a career in tech. Many years later, after getting married and having two biological children, I retired early and pursued what I really love: writing.

Tell us about your writing process: Much is said about writing from the heart or letting the characters speak to you. I’m much more like Vladimir Nabokov. When asked what he thought of EM Forster’s proclamation that his characters take over and dictate his works, Nabokov remarked how sorry he felt for Forster’s characters. Nabokov added, “My characters are galley slaves.”

I pave each character’s dark and scary road with broken glass. Their ideas for escape are guillotined without remorse. Would we prefer to watch Serena Williams blindly toss a ball across the court, hoping for a magical point? Or do we expect her to explode a finely aimed shot at the far corner forcing her opponent to attempt an impossibly skillful feat of athleticism?

I write with intention. I’d love to believe in magic, but for me, writing is a lot of hard work. I start with something I feel needs to be expressed. For example, after being shocked to read the CEO of Glaxo referred to a $3 billion fine for criminal sales practices as “… the cost of doing business,” I decided to expand on the next inevitable step for such a moral journey. In 2014, I wrote Element 42, in which a drug company engineers a deadly virus to unleash a global pandemic only its patented drug can cure. Today, fans ask me if the novel is non-fiction.

In my most recent release, The Rembrandt Decision, I addressed an issue from my soul: adoption. As an adopted father, I often heard people say, “They’re not the same as real kids.” I know better. To illustrate family dynamics, I had to create allegorical scenes and sequences to draw out multifaceted sentiments of abandonment, rejection, and inclusion. Which led to the exploration of parenting and what constitutes a mother or father figure. Naturally, that subject raises yet another question: how far should any parent go for their children? How far is too far?

To make it work, I jotted a framework of about five hundred words highlighting the fifteen tenets of Joseph Campbell’s theory of the monomyth. It gave me a flexible platform from which to design each chapter and scene to fit within the archetypal structure. At that point, I had a great plan. Of course, the best thing about great plans is watching them disintegrate on impact. But the original framework allowed me to fix and adjust as I went, knowing that at a certain point, the hero/heroine must meet with the goddess, just as certainly as they will find atonement with the father figure.

When done right, a work based on monomyth becomes a reflection of the universal arc of human life. One day we find ourselves relying on the seemingly supernatural aid of a benefactor, just as we eventually reconcile our rebellious youth with the sober expectations of our upbringing. So must our characters resolve themselves to overcome adversity in the story. That doesn’t happen by accident.

Do you ever kill a popular character? There is a right way and a wrong way to kill a character. Experience through trial and error has taught me the difference between the two. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ned Stark were executed to set their respective stories on fire. A death that does not ignite action is gratuitous. Don’t get me wrong, a gratuitous death can have an emotional impact, but it feels manipulative to the reader.

In my fifth book in the Sabel Security series, Death and Secrets, I needed co-lead Pia Sabel to step out from her father’s shadow. I wrote his death with the intention to set her in motion. It worked well. Pia’s impetuous nature brought about her father’s demise. At the same time, his own impatience was the direct cause. Recently, I realized I should have done more to draw out the parallels in their stories. In her next book (still in the thinking stages), she will be forced to resolve her guilt with her complicity.

What kind of research do you do? My stories are the result of my research rather than the other way around. As an avid reader of history, economics, geo-politics, and current events, my fiction is an outlet for my studies. (I also read fiction extensively and always carry a book.) In 2019, the horrific mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, was followed five months later by the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. My morbid interest led me to investigate what these terrorists were thinking. Researching the racism that both extremists believed in, I discovered the existence of a worldwide network of loosely affiliated neo-Nazis and radicalized nationalists. That horrifying concept spurred me to write Death and Conspiracy, a novel about what these fanatics were capable of doing should they get together. It remains one of my most ominous works.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Anyone can tell stories their friends are willing to sit through. Getting people to spend ten hours listening to you is quite a trick. Success is when you tell a story, so fascinating strangers will pay money to hear it. And that’s not easy. Read a lot, write a lot, study the craft, and work hard.

Link to books: http://shop.seeleyjames.com
Link about adoption story: http://seeleyjames.com/adopted

Seeley James (@seeleyjamesauth) • Instagram photos and videos

Seeley James | Facebook

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds as though you’ve led a very interesting life that has given you a great background for writing. Best of luck to you with your new book.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

ALMA KATSU – Historical – Fantasy – HORROR

Alma Katsu. Photo by Evan Michio

Alma Katsu is the award-winning author of seven novels. Her latest is The Fervor, a reimagining of the Japanese internment that Booklist called “a stunning triumph” (starred) and Library Journal called “a must-read for all, not just genre fans” (starred). Red Widow, her first espionage novel, is a nominee for the Thriller Writers Award for best novel, was a NYT Editors Choice, and is in development for a TV series.

 

Something strange is taking place in the waning days of WWII. Meiko, the Japanese wife of a U.S. fighter pilot, follows a mysterious and deadly disease spreading through the Japanese internment camps. Archie Mitchell, a preacher whose wife is killed during the explosion of a fu-go, or fire balloon, is seized with confusing thoughts of revenge. Fran Gurstwold, a reporter intent on escaping from her newspaper’s “pink collar ghetto,” is determined to write up the fire balloon incidents despite the Army’s embargo. And Aiko, Meiko’s daughter, escapes from camp and makes a dangerous solo journey back to Seattle when she’s told her mother has died. It’s all tied together by a forgotten episode in Meiko’s past: a trip taken with her researcher father to a remote island reportedly linked to the Japanese underworld.

Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve been writing historical combined with supernatural or horror or fantasy for six books, but in 2021 my first spy novel, Red Widow, was published. I got the opportunity to write Red Widow because I’d had a long career in intelligence and wanted to try to write a spy thriller that was a little unlike the usual fare—and had a publisher who was willing to take the chance! Overall I’d say writing in more than one genre is a big challenge: readers who like, say, mysteries aren’t necessarily going to pick up your romance novel. Then you have the challenge of trying to market to two separate audiences—it’s tougher than it sounds.

Tell us about your writing process: Generally, I write all morning, from about 7 am until noon, when I make lunch for the family, then write again in the afternoon until I sneak in a little exercise before making dinner. I take care of business during those hours, too: promotion, talking to agents and editors. Evenings are interviews or taping panels and reading ARCs for blurbs. I’m very lucky to do this full-time, but it is a lot of work.

For the historical horror novels, it starts with a quick sprint of research that helps me find the quirky characters and odd little-known facts that will give the book its magic. Then there’s a fairly detailed outline, and I start drafting. I generally draft from beginning to end these days, no jumping around to do favorite scenes first. First drafts are terse. I’ll do a couple more drafts, smoothing prose, filling in plot gaps, finding new twists, understanding the characters better, deepening and enriching. Then it goes to the agent for a first read, and that’s when the real work begins.

How long did it take you to write your first book? My first book, The Taker, took 10 years to get to a publishable state. I’d come back to writing fiction after a long break, and it took a long time to get my sea legs back. It was like I’d been lying on the couch eating potato chips for a decade, and I decided I wanted to run a marathon.

How long to get it published? Once it got to the point where I felt fairly confident it was publishable, it went fast. But those 10 years were filled with querying, and it wasn’t ready, so a lot of rejection and trying to fix the problems without having the chops to do it, which is why it took so long.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? I find protagonists much harder to write than antagonists. Villains are interesting, and my villains often end up taking over the book. Anti-heroes aren’t quite the thing these days and often come off as cliché.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? My books are ALL sub-plots. Except for Red Widow, my books are usually multiple POV, and all those sub-plots have to come together in a satisfying way by the end. It is a ton of work. I use spreadsheets to keep track of everything.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? Three of my books are historical fiction based on real-life events. The first, The Hunger, is a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party. Most of the characters are based on real people, and I learned after that, people you have to be circumspect about doing that. It can be ghoulish to some readers. If you need to drastically change a real person’s life to make it fit your story, you’re better off creating a completely fictional character. My most recent book, The Fervor, is mostly fictional characters but it’s based on two real-life incidents: the explosion that caused the only deaths on the US mainland during WWII, and the internment of people of Japanese descent.

   

How do our readers contact you?

Alma’s website https://www.almakatsubooks.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/alm

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/almakatsu/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AlmaKatsuBooks/

Penguin Random House page https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/667268/the-fervor-by-alma-katsu/

5 Comments

  1. Mary

    I admire your tenacity and discipline. Need to take lessons. Your writing journey is inspiration. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Nickless

    What a wonderful interview! Thank you for sharing your process, Alma, and for giving us a peek into your books. I literally have Red Widow at the top of my TBR pile next to my reading chair. I picked it up after reading a review that praised its many strengths. I look forward to reading The Fervor as well–thank you for shining a light on a dark and often overlooked period of American history.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Mizushima

    Congratulations on your new book. It sound like a really good one, and I’ve added it to my reading list. Also happy that Red Widow was published. It sounds good too!

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like your disciplined approach to writing is working our very well for you. I’m glad you’re writing about the internment of the Japanese Americans in WW II. President Roosevelt’s been given a pass on this for the most part and it was a disgraceful period in our history. I had a woman of Japanese decent in my Writing the Memoir class a few years ago and she’d been born in one of those camps. She wrote a fabulous memoir about what her family went through. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Alma Katsu

      Michael, thank you for the kind words. I bet that was a terrific memoir, and glad she wrote it as we’re losing so many from that generation. It would be a shame if their stories were lost, too.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

DONNELL BELL – Paranoia Has Been Very Good To Me

Leaving international thrillers to world travelers, Donnell Ann Bell concentrates on suspense that might happen in her neck of the woods – writing SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME. Traditionally published with Bell Bridge Books, she has written four Amazon single-title bestsellers. Her most current release is Black Pearl, a Cold Case Suspense, book one of a series, and Until Dead, A Cold Case Suspense, Book two, to be released May 31, 2022. To sign up for her newsletter or follow her on social media, check out www.donnellannbell.com

Hi, George; thank you for inviting me to chat with your readers on your esteemed blog. Before I begin this extremely important subject, I’d like to ask your viewers, especially if they are reading this on their laptops, how many of you have a sticky note or an obstacle blocking your computer camera lens? I’m not a statistical guru, but I would wager the number is more than 50 percent. That, or your newer laptop comes with a device that does it for you.

Did you know that in 2020 (and quite possibly before), employers purchased software programs to monitor their off-site employees to verify they weren’t surfing unrelated work sites and were, in fact, working? People quickly started logging off at night to avoid these unwelcome electronic voyeurs.

I think about things like this because, as my blog title suggests . . . well, you know. I’m careful to research apps to ensure they aren’t loaded with malware. When I’m at my son and daughter’s homes, I whisper around Alexa, stare cryptically at the baby monitors, and don’t get me started on the Ring doorbell. I’ve even searched the dark web . . . All right, no, I haven’t gone anywhere near the dark web. But my antagonist in Until Dead, A Cold Case Suspense has.

I had so much fun creating an evil character who has in-depth knowledge of everything I fret about. At first, I thought I was being ridiculous, that my ideas were over the top. But I’ll have you know I have people—IT expert friends­—who not only didn’t laugh at my plot, they dove in and verified what I was writing.

So, imagine you’re on an FBI task force and an assassin with explosives, weapons, and IT skills, one who calls himself The Tradesman, has been hired to take out an assistant U.S. attorney? Would that make you . . . uncomfortable? I bring back my entire team (and a few newcomers) from Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense. Fortunately, this task force is smarter, braver, and far more qualified than the author. But I should warn you—there will be times in Until Dead, my task force is paranoid.

Until Dead, a Cold Case Suspense releases May 31, 2022, and is now available for preorder. Until Dead: A Cold Case Suspense – Kindle edition by Bell, Donnell Ann. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Pre-order at your favorite bookstore today!

“This outstanding follow-on to Donnell Ann Bell’s Black Pearl [is] highly recommended!” — Barbara Nickless, Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Charts Bestselling Author

 This killer won’t stop . . . until she’s dead

When Lt. Everett T. Pope is notified of an explosion in downtown Denver close to the judicial buildings, his first instinct is a gas leak. No such luck. As Incident Command and Pope’s own Major Crimes unit move in, he discovers he knows the intended victims—an Assistant U. S. Attorney—and Pope’s former partner, now a private investigator, has died shielding the injured AUSA with his body.

As ATF and the FBI take over investigating the bombing and unraveling motives behind the murder attempt, Pope is relegated to a peripheral role. But the injured AUSA’s aunt is a United States senator used to getting results. She turns to the team that solved the Black Pearl Killer murders with a very big ask—find her answers and locate the bomber.

FBI Special Agent Brian DiPietro must recall his entire cold case team from their far-flung assignments, knowing he’s being asked to do the impossible. The senator, however, doesn’t know the meaning of the word. All too soon, DiPietro finds his team working alongside ATF on a red-hot mission. One that uncovers a decades old cold case.

Thanks, George!

Connect with Donnell!
E-mail * Website * Twitter * Facebook

30 Comments

  1. Vicki Batman

    Love! Love! I used to do a sticky on the camera until I had troubles with Zoom. LOL. Actually was a camera driver problem. Won’t have Alexa or Ring or Tik Tok either.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Vicki, I am adding you to my paranoid community. We meet on our back porches in disguise 😉

      Reply
  2. Patricia Stoltey

    Paranoia is good in these days of scammers and cybercriminals, Donnell. I haven’t covered my little camera eye with a post it note yet, but it does creep me out a little to think someone out there might be watching. I might have to become part of the “cover the eye” gang.

    Thanks to George for hosting so many of our much-appreciated Colorado authors!!

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Isn’t he amazing, Pat. So generous. Are you going to be at our meeting in June, I will get you your own personal eye patch! 🙂

      Reply
      • Patricia Stoltey

        My book club appearances will be via Zoom. Can you Zoom me an eye patch? 😀

        Reply
  3. Debra Bokur

    This sounds like a riveting read, Donnell! And as for the paranoia, I’m pretty certain they’re watching me, too.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Hi, Debra! Oh my gosh, they got you, too?!!! Tin foil! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!.

      Reply
  4. Lois Winston

    Great post, Donnell! And having already read Until Dead, I can recommend it to everyone. You’ve got another winner of a suspense.

    Reply
      • Ana

        Donnell you are a card! I can’t wait to read both books.
        Ana

        Reply
        • Donnell Ann Bell

          Thanks, Ana, back at you. I loved meeting you at LCC xoxo

          Reply
  5. CINDY SAMPLE

    Sounds like another bestseller, Donnell. I can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thank you, Cindy! I hope you’re feeling better. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  6. Brooke Terpening

    So loved your interview, Donnell! I’d be arrested if anyone ever saw my Googles while I research a crime novel.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Brooke, if you’re arrested, I’ll bail you out. Or, we quite possibly might share a jail cell 😉 Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
    • Thonie Hevron

      Great interview! You’ve piqued my interest. Ill read this one when I finish The Black Pearl. Hope to see you in lector the PSWA Conference!

      Reply
      • Donnell Ann Bell

        Thank you, Thonie, I hope you enjoy both books. I’m hoping to attend. Right now it’s up to my mother’s health.

        Reply
  7. Margaret Mizushima

    Great blog post, Donnell, and you’ve described my paranoia quite well. Until Dead sounds like a great book, and I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for shining a spotlight on it to both you and George.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thanks, Margaret. It was fun to get that off my chest. Thanks, George!

      Reply
  8. Marie Sutro

    Totally with you on Ring. Great interview! 😉

    Reply
  9. Nanci Rathbun

    I, too, became ‘paranoid’ after researching and writing mysteries and crime thrillers, Donnell. One of the first things I do in a public place is look for the exits – just in case one of the criminals I write about happens to be having a meal in my favorite restaurant, too. Or maybe they’re browsing the local book store for ideas. *shivers*

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Nanci, I believe we may have been separated at birth! Thanks for stopping by 😉

      Reply
  10. Marilyn Meredith

    Oh, boy, you have definitely piqued my curiosity. Will be getting a copy of this latest book.
    Hope you’re coming to the PSWA conference.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      thank you, Marilyn. I’m still crossing my fingers and hoping to come to Las Vegas. My 88-year-old mom may have other plans. I hope you enjoy my latest cold case suspense.

      Reply
  11. Rhonda

    Oh, Donnell! I had to laugh at your “paranoia” because having worked at the DA’s office for so long, my own paranoia mirrors yours. My son finally said, “Mom, if you’re not talking about committing a murder, no one is interested in listening in on your conversations!” But mystery writers are ALWAYS talking about murder. lol!
    Looking forward to the great read!

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      You and I don’t stand a prayer, Rhonda. Oh, wait, that sounds rather paranoid, doesn’t it? And you’re right, we’re always talking about murder 😉

      Reply
  12. Michael A. Black

    Hi Donnell. This sounds like a great followup to Black Pearl. Can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thanks, Mike! I had fun writing this one. You’re very kind. Thank you.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

KAREN C. WHALEN – Paralegal – Award Winning Author

Karen C. Whalen is the author of two mystery series for The Wild Rose Press: the Dinner Club Mysteries featuring Jane Marsh, an empty nester who hosts a gourmet dinner club, and the Tow Truck Mysteries starring Delaney Moran, a super feminine shoe-a-holic who drives a tow truck. Both are cozy mysteries about strong friendships and family ties set in Colorado. The first book in the Dinner Club series tied for First Place in the Suspense Novel category of the 2017 IDA Contest sponsored by Oklahoma Romance Writers of America.

Whalen worked for many years as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado, and was a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. Whalen loves to host dinner clubs, entertain friends, ride bicycles, hike in the mountains, and read cozy murder mysteries.

Toes on the Dash – Shoe-a-holic Delaney Morran inherits a tow truck business from her absent dad. The dead body of her ex-boyfriend is discovered in the trunk of her first towed vehicle. She must solve the crime and toughen up to make the business a success and feel the father-daughter connection she seeks.

Many authors count among my favorites, but three stand out the most. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Erma Bombeck.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her life as a homesteader’s daughter and wife during the years 1870 through 1890. I started reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s A Gift from the Sea, published over fifty years ago. Then I read through her five volumes of diaries and letters covering 1922 through 1944. Erma Bombeck wrote a newspaper column and humorous books about her life between 1965 and 1996. There are four things these writers have in common, which are also the reasons they are my favorites: they wrote about a very specific time period, they wrote about their own lives, they wrote with a strong sense of place (Laura the prairie, Anne the ocean, and Erma the suburbs) and they were talented women writers.

Lucky for them, they lived in exciting times and places. Also, they had interesting lives and a whole bunch of talent.

Erma Bombeck is the only one of the three whose life span overlapped with mine. I sent her a letter right before she died and she wrote me back. I keep that letter on my desk and look at it every day.

These women writers inspired me to write. First, I wrote a column for a paralegal magazine (paralegal being my original career). Erma Bombeck also wrote a column, and I’m proud to be remembered as a columnist, too. When I progressed to writing novels, I set my books in Colorado, an evocative western setting. My books are not memoirs, however; they are murder mysteries. My tow truck mystery series is a mash up of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels and Gemma Halliday’s High Heel Mysteries. So, all right, Janet Evanovich and Gemma Halliday are my favorite authors, too.

I will be forever thankful to the woman writers who have gone before me and inspired me. Because of them, I was able to achieve my own dream of becoming a published author. As Laura Ingalls Wilder is quoted as saying, “No one has ever achieved anything from the smallest to the greatest unless the dream was dreamed first.”

Thank you, Laura, Anne, and Erma, for daring to dream first.

These are Karen’s social media links:

These are Karen’s buy links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09S5XH9KQ?ref_=dbs_m_mng_rwt_calw_tkin_0&storeType=ebooks&qid=1644676163&sr=8-1#detailBullets_feature_div

Barnes & Nobel: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/toes-on-the-dash-karen-c-whalen/1140989970?ean=2940160712291

Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/toes-on-the-dash/id1609810860

 

 

 

9 Comments

  1. Alina K. Field

    I love Erma Bombeck! Best of luck on the new release!

    Reply
  2. Rhonda

    Great post, Karen! Can’t wait to read your book! It’s up next in my queue. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Robin Somers

    Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s A Gift from the Sea Continues to be so inspiring and relevant to me, and it’s a valuable read to reconnect to our true voice. Thank you Karen Whalen and George Cramer for this column! (My website below is in process of remodeling)

    Reply
    • Karen Whalen

      A Gift from the Sea was published over 50 years ago, and I probably read it 20 years ago, but it is timeless. I need to check out your website when it’s ready!

      Reply
  4. Donnell Ann Bell

    Oh my goodness. There’s a title for you, Daring to Dream First. What did Erma Bombeck say to you, Karen? I’m so excited to read your tow truck mystery. Your background is fabulous to ignite your dream. Expecting great things from you.

    Thanks, George!

    Reply
    • Karen Whalen

      I like that title. So, Erma sent me a note about the last book she was writing at the time and she signed it, “You are a good friend.” I think I had written to her that I felt as if I knew her well from her books, and that was her response. I treasure that note. I’m a fangirl!

      Reply
  5. Pam

    I’m here!! I love the book! Thank you for everything!

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. This was a very inspiring post. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Karen Whalen

      Thanks. We all need a little inspiration sometimes!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.